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Who Are You And What Have You Done With Wade Miller?

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SCOTTSDALE, Arizona -- Now what?

The Cubs beat the Giants for the second day in a row, 3-2, but the score wasn't the whole story. The story today was Wade Miller, who threw what was arguably the best outing by a Cubs starting pitcher this spring.

Five innings. Three singles. No walks. Five strikeouts, including two called K's on Barry Bonds, causing the significant minority of Cub fans in the sellout crowd of 11,995 to roar in approval.

Before I continue, I've got a complaint about the Giants' spring training jerseys -- see this example:


(Brian Dallimore, taken by Harry How/Getty, 2005 photo)

If you saw the game on TV today, you'll know what I'm talking about. They are black. With black numerals surrounded by an orange outline. Unless you are ten feet away from the player, you have absolutely no chance of reading these numbers. Given the fact that from the RF lawn, the PA system at Scottsdale is just as inaudible as the one in Mesa is from the LF lawn there, you have absolutely no chance of finding out who's coming in and out of the game.

Whoever came up with these shirts ought to be sent back to design school. The numbers need to be either orange -- the Giants' alternate color -- or white.

OK, now back to the recap. I don't think I've ever seen Scottsdale Stadium more crowded -- if the 11,995 wasn't a record, it had to be close. I wound up sitting again with BCB readers dfrancon and the SD Smooth Jazz Man, and we were "entertained" by a Giants fan who attempted, without success, to get Alfonso Soriano to turn around with some very weak (although loud) heckling. Fortunately, the weak performance of the Giants today, along with the Cubs scoring just enough runs to win, shut this guy up pretty well.

Miller was masterful -- only two outfield outs were recorded in his five innings, a fly to left in the 2nd, and a fly ball to Cliff Floyd in right field to end the fifth inning and Miller's appearance. I was pretty nervous to see that Floyd was starting in RF, given the fact that he can barely move. And that's pretty much what he did in catching that fly ball -- it was literally hit right to him, he took about two steps and caught it. This was right after Miller had speared a ground ball up the middle with a runner on first and turned it into a snazzy 1-6-3 double play. And for good measure, Miller smacked a double into the right-center field gap, right in front of us, in the fifth inning.

So, it appears that Miller has won the fifth starter job, barring any weird happenings in his next appearance, which should be Thursday in the final game at Mesa. This will leave more time for Mark Prior to get his act together; after starting next Wednesday against the Rockies, I'd expect Prior to be left at extended spring training (I'm not sure if he needs to officially be on the DL for that or not -- if so, they're going to have to finagle that, since he doesn't look injured).

Angel Guzman relieved Miller, and though his line (3.1 IP, 4 H, 2 ER) doesn't look all that good, he really threw only one bad pitch, a fastball that Mark Sweeney hit about 450 feet completely out of the ballpark onto 75th Street behind right field, for a 2-run HR which accounted for the Giants' only runs. Will Ohman came on in the ninth and recorded two outs for his first spring save.

Barry Zito threw a decent five innings for the Giants, allowing just one run, another Aramis Ramirez home run. In a smaller ballpark, the Cubs would have had a second HR -- Ryan Theriot led off the sixth off reliever David Cortes with a ball that went about 410 feet to left-center field, bouncing off the "Hotel Valley Ho" sign, a ball that would have been out of just about any of the other spring training parks in the Valley. Theriot also played a competent left field before being shifted to 2B in the sixth inning when lineup changes were made by Lou Piniella.

Derrek Lee played the entire game today, walked, had a sac fly and got a gift double (the ball was an easy fly ball, dropped by Giants CF Todd Linden, but ruled a two-base hit, after the scoreboard had initially indicated "error"). He's hitting .490 for the spring and looks more than ready to start the season.

Since the last time I sat on the lawn at Scottsdale Stadium, which was several years ago (maybe 2003), they have built a huge picnic area above the RF bullpen, which used to be all grass. The Giants also now have a practice field immediately adjacent to the main stadium; I saw people peering through windscreen-like fencing on the street before the game, but you can also stand on a walkway overlooking this field if there's anything going on there before or during the game -- which there wasn't. They also have one of the largest souvenir stores I have ever seen -- larger than those at many major league stadiums. And they were raking in the cash, too -- the lines to pay were nearly out the door.

I received an email recently from Chicago-based novelist Don Evans, who has written a new Cubs-centric novel titled "Good Money After Bad"; he stopped by on the lawn to give me a review copy of the book, and I'll be posting a review of it just as soon as I can find time to read it!

Finally, I promised this today, so here it is: my friend and BCB reader bison stopped by to say hi with his son Mikey. Mikey's six today. Happy Birthday!